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Motorbikes or bus transit system?

November 24, 2012

THIS is regarding a news item (Nov 16) that said: “… there are 1.4 million registered motorcycles in Karachi. As many as 1.2m motorbikes use Karachi’s roads daily.”

Making a policy statement in the National Assembly, the federal interior minister said: “A motorcycle has become a live bomb,” and added that motorbikes had been used in more than 96 per cent of bomb blasts in Karachi and in 438 bombings in the country this year (Nov 17).

The increase in motorcycles in Karachi has been phenomenal. There were 7,137 motorcycles in 2000; 41,374 in 2003; 65,762 in 2005 and 91,502 in 2006. Currently there are 140,000 motorcycles in Karachi.

The reason for an alarming increase in motorcycles is obvious. The city transportation planners were never responsive to Karachi’s transportation needs. The world over, transport planners keep a watchful eye on the city’s transportation system and plan well in advance to meet future trends.

Here, due to inaction and weak planning, the transportation problems continue to rise. People can be seen sitting on top of minibuses. This is not seen in developed countries.

People have no choice but to buy motorcycles for quick and easy access to their destinations. While, initially there were manageable problems, the rare and unusual increase in the number of motorcycles has led to frequent traffic jams. Their travel time has now increased significantly.

The savings on fuel initially anticipated by motorcyclists has now become a financial burden.

The best solution for the current transportation crisis in Karachi is the provision of bus rapid transit (BRT) system. Nearly 147 cities worldwide have implemented BRT systems or priority bus corridors, serving more than 22 million passenger trips daily.Bangkok’s BRT system started operation on 29 May 2010.

The project is owned by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. Currently, the Bangkok BRT system has 25 buses, and is 15.9km in length.

New Delhi BRT was launched on April 30, 2008. The length of the route is 5.6km and the system has nine stations. There are 57 routes and peak ridership is 6,500 passengers per hour.

In addition to an efficient public transportation, the BRT system has some co-benefits as well. Air pollution caused by vehicles in Karachi will reduce significantly. The major air pollutants, like particulate matter, ground - level ozone, sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and ambient lead, have significant health impacts.

A major problem associated with the use of motorcycles in Karachi is the deafening noise they generate. Noise level, greater than 80 dB (A) -- decibels on the A - weightage scale, is harmful for hearing and an exposure of over four hours daily will cause psychological problems. BRT is expected to reduce automotive - related noise pollution in Karachi significantly.

Telecom operators are losing revenues due to frequent switching off of the mobile phone service in Karachi, the citizens, NGOs and telecom operators are requested to advocate strongly for the BRT system.

The telecom sector is also requested to partly fund the BRT system in Karachi. The BRT system will reduce the motorcycle population in Karachi, leading possibly to the non-interruption of mobile phone service.

F. H. MUGHAL Karachi